|Parliamentary leader - Independent
House of Representatives
September 14, 2007 – June 17, 2010
|Member of the House of Representatives|
November 30, 2006 – June 17, 2010
|Minister of Justice|
September 21, 2006 – September 22, 2006
|Prime Minister||Jan Peter Balkenende|
|Preceded by||Piet Hein Donner|
|Succeeded by||Ernst Hirsch Ballin|
|Minister for Integration and Immigration|
May 27, 2003 – February 22, 2007
|Prime Minister||Jan Peter Balkenende|
|Preceded by||Hilbrand Nawijn|
|Succeeded by||Gerd Leers (as Minister for Immigration, Integration and Asylum Affairs)|
|Born||Maria Cornelia Frederika Verdonk
October 18, 1955
|Political party||People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (2002-2007)
Proud of the Netherlands (2007-2012)
Democratic Political Turning Point (from 2012)
|Alma mater||Radboud University Nijmegen (M.A.)|
Maria Cornelia Frederika "Rita" Verdonk (born October 18, 1955) is a retired Dutch politician of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) later her own formed Proud of the Netherlands (Trots). She served as Minister for Integration and Immigration in Cabinets Balkenende II and III. During her time as Minister for Integration and Immigration she was considered to be the most powerful and influential Minister of the Cabinets Balkenende II and III. In 2006 after the Minister of Justice Piet Hein Donner resigned following a Netherlands Safety Board enquiry into a fire at a cell block near Schiphol Airport, she served as Minister of Justice from September 21, 2006 till September 22, 2006.
After the Dutch general election of 2006, the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy lost seats and became the leading Opposition party against the Cabinet Balkenende IV. Verdonk became a Member of the House of Representatives, but after continuing disagreement with Party leader Mark Rutte she was expelled from the parliamentary faction of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy on September 13, 2007. One month later she cancelled her membership, after a reconciliation attempt failed and the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy party board initiated a procedure of exclusion. In October 2007, she announced the creation of her own political movement, Proud of the Netherlands (Dutch: Trots op Nederland). She was the Lijsttrekker of the Proud of the Netherlands party for the Dutch general election of 2010, but didn't win any seats. On October 21, 2011 she announced her retirement from politics, the Proud of the Netherlands party eventually merged with the Independent Citizens' Party (OBP) of Hero Brinkman to form the new Democratic Political Turning Point (DPK) party.
Early life 
Maria Cornelia Frederika Verdonk was born on October 18, 1955 in Utrecht, Verdonk attended High School at Utrecht's Niels Stensen College at the atheneum level. She went on to study sociology at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, which at the time was considered left-wing, specializing in sociology of organisations and criminology. Verdonk was member of a sub-faculty board of the University and a member of the activist group Bond voor Wetsovertreders (BWO; English: Union for Lawbreakers) which had close ties with the far-left Pacifist Socialist Party. Its 1977 manifesto included as the organisation's aims "to curb and/or prevent material damage and immaterial damage inflicted to individuals or groups in our society by the Dutch legal system". The BWO campaigned for detainee minimum wages, the abolition of censorship of letters for detainees and the right to unsupervised visits, amongst more issues. The group visited inmates at a local prison and undertook legal interventions on their behalf. Verdonk participated in a non-violent human blockade during the Pierson riots of 1981, when plans for housing demolition to make room for a parking lot triggered violent civil unrest. Because of her activism during this period, she earned the nickname "Red Rita." In 2002 she became member of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). In a 2006 article, some of Verdonk's friends and colleagues from her Nijmegen days expressed surprise at Verdonk's radical switch in political orientation after graduating in 1983. Some observed that Verdonk had never held outspoken left-wing ideals and was a critic of communist regimes, others hypothesized that it was part of a growing-up phase; a former treasurer of the BWO suspected that Verdonk had been a police informer all those years.
After graduating in 1983, Verdonk became trainee at the Department of Correction at the Ministry of Justice. In 1984, she became Assistant-Director at the Scheveningen Detention Centre. In 1988, she became member of the board of the Prison 'De Schie' in Rotterdam. In 1992, she switched to the Ministry of Justice's department of Youth and Hospital Orders Institutions, where she reached the position of Vice-Director. In 1996, she went on to become Director of the Department of State Security of the Ministry of Interior Affairs. Between 1999 and 2003 she was Senior Manager / Director of consulting firm KPMG (as of 2002, Atos KPMG Consulting).
Minister for Integration 
In 2003, Verdonk was appointed Minister for Integration and Immigration. She soon developed a reputation for toughness and outspokenness, with her uncompromising immigration policies earning her the nickname IJzeren Rita (Iron Rita). Verdonk enjoys a rare level of recognition and popularity amongst voters, but is also reviled by many as a populist with an impulsive style of governing. In a few incidents she was attacked physically for her policies, in June 2004 Verdonk was smeared with ketchup by two members of an extreme left organisation. These small incidents, combined with the murders of Pim Fortuyn in 2002 and Theo van Gogh in 2004 were reasons for the Dutch Ministry of Interior Affairs to monitor Verdonk's security tightly. Since June 4, 2008 this monitoring has ceased by agreement in the Cabinet, since the threat level has gone down. Verdonk used the publicitary opportunity to discuss her own security in full parliamentary session on the following day.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali 
On May 16, 2006, Verdonk has been criticized by prominent members of her own political party, the VVD, MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Gerrit Zalm, deputy prime minister. Verdonk decided, based on a recent ruling by the Hoge Raad (Supreme court), that Hirsi Ali never had acquired Dutch citizenship. According to the Hoge Raad, unless very special circumstances have arisen, a decision to grant someone Dutch citizenship cannot be valid if the subject had lied about his or her name and date of birth. In a broadcast on the Dutch public network, Hirsi Ali had declared that she had lied about her name and date of birth during the procedure. The decision by Verdonk caused a lot of controversy: VVD-deputy prime minister Zalm said he was surprised that events known for years suddenly resulted in action by Verdonk two days after a television broadcast about Hirsi Ali's past. He said Verdonk has disqualified herself from being #1 candidate for the VVD in the coming elections. In a session in parliament on the issue of Hirsi Ali's citizenship (a unique event in itself), Verdonk stated that she had no choice in this matter because Hirsi Ali's passport was issued with an incorrect name and incorrect date of birth. Some members of parliament suggested that Verdonk's stern actions were a result of her political ambitions in the 2006 VVD leadership elections. The result of the debate was that Verdonk promised to have another look at the case and see if there was a way to have Hirsi Ali keep her citizenship.
On June 27, 2006 Verdonk informed parliament of her decision to allow MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali her Dutch passport. According to Verdonk, Hirsi Ali had presented to her new convincing evidence regarding the appropriateness of her last name and on retrospection the false date of birth did not carry that much weight. The next day, a parliamentary debate took place, in which minister Verdonk and prime-minister Jan Peter Balkenende were questioned by the parliament about the decision. Although the debate for a long time seemed to be stalwart, it took a quite drastic turn when the prime-minister, at the end of the first period of the debate, stated that Hirsi Ali had to sign a letter in which she took the blame for the whole situation in order to retain her citizenship. Otherwise, the solution would not be acceptable for minister Verdonk. In the second period of the debate, a vote of no confidence was proposed by the green party GroenLinks, which was, among others, supported by the Balkenende cabinet coalition partner Democrats 66 (D66). The vote did not meet the required majority though, as the right-wing populist LPF opposed it. Because a coalition partner supported the motion—a unique situation in itself for Dutch politics—the Balkenende cabinet had to decide if this had consequences for Rita Verdonk as minister, and the second Balkenende cabinet.
Van Beek, a MP for the VVD, stated after the debate that it would be almost unthinkable that if Verdonk resigned, the cabinet would stay intact, as one the coalition partners of the cabinet had lost its confidence in the minister. D66, feeling unsatisfied that minister Verdonk did not resign because of the debate, withdrew its support for the cabinet, resulting in its fall on June 29.
Outgoing Minister 
On November 30, 2006 the new parliament was sworn in as the result of elections a week earlier. Previously, on November 1, Labour Party leader Wouter Bos proposed a motion for what in effect would constitute an amnesty for an estimated 26,000 asylum seekers who had asked for asylum more than five years ago and had their asylum applications turned down. This motion requested of the cabinet, "in anticipation of a definite discussion on the amnesty by the new House of Representatives, not to take any irreversible measures with respect to this group". During her tenure as Minister for Immigration Verdonk had specifically cited the rejection of those 26,000 as an example of her toughening of the immigration laws (see Policy below). The motion was passed with a 75-74 majority, the VVD, Prime Minister Balkenende's CDA, and the right-wing PVV and SGP parties dissenting. Both Verdonk, now 'demissionair', and Prime Minister Balkenende criticized the motion, and there was speculation that this could have led to Verdonk resigning from the cabinet. On December 3, after several meetings, the cabinet decided not to honor the motion because an amnesty would be impossible to implement. It agreed further postponement of expulsions until after a special parliamentary session to be held on December 12.
During this December 12 session, a motion was proposed by the PvdA asking Verdonk once again not to take action on extraditions until the new cabinet was formed. This motion was again supported by all the left-wing and centre-left parties and it passed with a slim 76-72 majority. Verdonk claimed this motion amounted to a de facto amnesty and affirmed her wel-known stance: any amnesty was unenforceable. She declared extraditions would continue after the debate, before cabinet could issue an official statement the next day. Verdonk also refused to postpone those extraditions for another 24 hours until a new debate could take place the next day. In reaction, the whole parliament asked for an official statement from the cabinet that same evening. Following an additional debate, during which Prime Minister Balkenende again declared that Verdonk had the full support of the cabinet, a motion of no confidence was accepted by the same coalition of left-wing parties. Before the vote took place Mark Rutte declared that should Verdonk resign, all VVD ministers would join her. The cabinet was in a 10 hour meeting on December 13 before deciding that all ministers would stay on and that Hirsch Ballin would take over Verdonks responsibility for immigration. In exchange, Verdonk added Hirsch Ballin's justice department responsibilities over youth care, prevention and probation to her portfolio. Hirsch Ballin could then execute the December 12 motion started by the PvdA, and postpone the extraditions of asylum seekers based on humanitarian grounds such as the responsibility for under-age children, until a new cabinet was formed.
Verdonk's most discussed propositions and decisions are:
- In order to reduce migration through marriage, she has proposed that partners of Dutch citizens who come out of EU are only allowed to immigrate into the Netherlands if the Dutch partner earns more than 120% of the minimum income.
- She refused to grant an amnesty to around 26,000 asylum seekers who had their asylum application turned down but who have been living in the Netherlands for more than 5 years. Since they had entered the Netherlands before the new Foreigner law, a special arrangement was required. Instead of an amnesty Verdonk chose a case-by-case approach.
- To integrate migrants into the Dutch society, every person who wants to immigrate into the Netherlands must pass an integration test, except for those who come from other European Union-member states, United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand (these immigrants must still take a year of integration classes). It tests knowledge of the Dutch language, political system and social conventions. The test must be taken before entering the Netherlands, preferably in a Dutch embassy in the country of origin. Migrants who come from an EU state, United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and new Zealand cannot take this integration test, even if they want to.
- "Oudkomers", migrants who have lived in the Netherlands for a long time, but are not "integrated", are also requested to take the exam. She has also attempted to apply make these tests mandatory for Dutch nationals who were born and raised outside the Netherlands . The constitutionality of these tests, especially its application to oudkomers and Dutch nationals has been questioned both by the Council of State, which advises government on all proposed laws, and various parties in the parliament including the VVD, her own party. These proposals will come into effect in January 2007.
Minister Verdonk was called to parliament for the following issues:
- In October 2005 it was discovered that civil servants of the Immigration & Naturalisation Services had informed the Congolese embassy and authorities that several of the people sent back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo had claimed asylum in the Netherlands. This information is considered confidential and should not have been disclosed to the Congolese authorities. Verdonk at first denied any wrongdoing on behalf of herself or her civil servants, but later admitted that she had lied and that in a several cases the Congolese embassy had been informed of the fact that several of the returnees had applied for asylum in the Netherlands. According to members of the opposition this information could put returnees (in this case to Congo) at risk of torture but no evidence of this has been put forward by any party or organisation. Verdonk maintains that no other sensitive information was transferred to the Congolese authorities in accordance with the findings of a special committee (Commissie Havermans).
- In December 2005, a cell-complex for denied refugees at Amsterdam Airport burned down after a fire had been started by one of the refugees. Eleven refugees died, and surviving refugees reported that they had to wait more than 45 minutes before being released from their cell. Also a man suspected of connections with terrorist organizations had been able to escape. Before the fire's investigation was completed, Verdonk stated that prison workers adequately handled the circumstances. Subsequently, in September 2006, she granted temporary stay permits to many of the victims of the Schiphol airport detention center fire, overriding the court hearing procedures.
As a minister, Verdonk has proposed the following, which have not become law:
- In October 2005, Verdonk proposed a ban on Muslim women wearing the burqa in public places, on the grounds that the burqa, which covers the face, is a security risk since suicide bombers could use it as a disguise. She also cancelled a meeting with Dutch Muslim leaders when one (of the 30) of them would not shake hands with her, because she is a woman. She has said that "the time for cosy tea-drinking" Muslim groups had passed.
- In January 2006, Verdonk proposed the adoption of a national code of conduct, listing the most important conventions of Dutch society, to facilitate the integration of migrants. She was inspired by a similar initiative undertaken by the Rotterdam municipality. One of the obligations would be for everybody to speak the Dutch language in the streets.
- Upon receiving Dutch citizenship, immigrants would have to sing the first stanza of the national anthem, the Wilhelmus.
- In March 2006, Verdonk considered sending homosexual asylum seekers from Iran back because they are no longer prosecuted, despite the general public conception that acts of homosexuality were still punishable by death. She noted that homosexuality in itself is not punishable by death sentence in Iran. In response to parliamentary criticism, the Minister announced on March 4 that all asylum cases involving homosexual Iranians would be assessed on an individual basis. It is worth noting that this policy initially earned her a position in the Human Rights Watch Hall of Shame.
Most of her executed policy comes down to a strict application of the Alien Integration Act of 1998 (Wet Inburgering Nieuwkomers), which was introduced by Job Cohen, the social democratic State Secretary for Justice in the Cabinet Kok II.
- Verdonk's eviction policies were criticised in the TV series 26,000 gezichten (26,000 faces), in which the personal lives of these people were shown, in hopes that public opinion would change when people saw that these 26,000 were mostly ordinary, friendly people.
- In January 2006, Verdonk received the negative Dutch Big Brother Award for "promoting privacy violations".
- In Amnesty International's magazine Wordt Vervolgd, former threefold Prime Minister and UN High Commissioner For Refugees Ruud Lubbers said that "Verdonk should not finish her job" and "The Netherlands is in a spasm (...) It would help if we could 'de-Verdonk' the situation".
- In December 2006, Verdonk was elected 'worst politician' by her colleague members of parliament, in a poll by the current affairs television program Een Vandaag, qualifying her as an 'elephant in a china cabinet' (a Dutch expression similar in meaning to the English idiom 'a bull in a china shop'), ruthless and incompetent. In a similar poll, the program's viewers put Verdonk in second placed on both the 'best politician' and 'worst politician' lists.
2006 Bid for VVD leadership 
On April 4, 2006, Verdonk announced her ambition to become political leader and to succeed Jozias van Aartsen as the lijsttrekker of the VVD for the coming elections, at the time expected to be held 2006. Her direct competitors in the leadership election were staatssecretaris of Education Mark Rutte and MP Jelleke Veenendaal. Although her political views on subjects other than immigration and integration had mostly been unclear, she was a likely candidate. Shortly after announcing she would be candidate, a poll for the RTL 4 News estimated that 56% of the people preferred Verdonk as the leader of the VVD. Rita Verdonk was advised by Kay van de Linde, who also played a part in anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn's 2002 election campaign, which was cut short by his assassination on May 6. Several of her statements and policies seem to exploit xenophobic emotions in the country, according to her opponents. On an official visit to Morocco, when visiting a poor neighbourhood, she remarked "I do not understand why these Moroccans come to the Netherlands. There is so much work to do here". She also proposed a national code of conduct which would oblige everyone to speak Dutch in the streets.
De Telegraaf reported on 23 June 2006 that Verdonk discussed policies with Marco Pastors of Leefbaar Rotterdam. The news report fueled fears that Verdonk might leave the VVD in order to form a new right-wing political party allied with Leefbaar Rotterdam and Lijst Pim Fortuyn. Verdonk denied the rumour
In the 2006 election Verdonk received a greater number of preference votes (620,555) than the VVD lijsttrekker Mark Rutte (553,200). As a direct consequence on November 28 she held a press conference in which she urged the party to rethink their policies via a special committee. She also expressed her desire to become party leader but would for the present remain loyal to Rutte. A few hours later on November 28, after meeting with the party, she withdrew both ideas. Chances of Verdonk to become party leader decreased with this action, described as an "attempted coup" by media and party members.
On January 21, 2007 NRC Handelsblad profiled Verdonk (caption: Holland at my feet) observing that her election-campaign team was not resolved and that she was still determined to grab the VVD leadership possibly right after the March provincial 2007 elections in the event that her opponent Rutte would again perform poorly.
In the HP/De Tijd issue of 5 June 2007, Verdonk said the following about Mark Rutte: He is a decent VVD member, but he's not really right-wing. I really can't see how he would be. Rutte objected to this statement, but the prominent VVD elder statesman Hans Wiegel defended Verdonk. At last, Verdonk apologised for her statement. After the controversy, the popularity of the VVD in the opinion polls decreased. Rutte gave Verdonk a final warning and said that VVD members had to "obey or get lost".
Around 21 June 2007, Radboud Magazine published an interview with Verdonk in which she said that the VVD was "hijacked" by "left-wing liberals", and that she wanted to "undo" that. Although Rutte had warned her before, he didn't take any action, because the interview was taken in April that year.
VVD member of Parliament 
From November 2006 until September 2007 Verdonk served as member of parliament for the VVD in the opposition benches as the education specialist.
Independent member of Parliament 
On 13 September 2007, Verdonk criticised the direction of the VVD again. She said that the VVD was "invisible" in the debate about immigration. The party met to decide on the fate of Verdonk. Rutte said he wanted to expel Verdonk. Later that afternoon, news reports confirmed that Verdonk had been expelled. Rutte said that "Verdonk had damaged the reputation of the VVD due to remarks in the media far too often". Verdonk said she would continue in the House of Representatives and that she would not give up her seat. She also confirmed that she would not join the Partij voor de Vrijheid. Geert Wilders, leader of the PVV, was disappointed by this comment and said he still wanted to speak with Verdonk about a possible joint party. Prominent VVD members such as Hans Wiegel and Frans Weisglas spoke of a "disastrous" decision by Rutte. The next day, Verdonk said that she still needed some more time to think over her decision again, but Rutte declined this, and she was formally expelled from the parliamentary faction of the VVD on 14 September 2007.
In October 2007, the VVD party board gave her the option of either giving up her parliamentary seat, or face exclusion procedures from the party. Verdonk herself then announced that she would leave the party but stay in Parliament. After further consideration she announced the creation of a new political movement, Proud of the Netherlands (Trots op NL), that was launched in April, 2008.
According to the result of opinion polls published on December 6, 2009, Verdonks movement Trots op NL would win one seat in the Dutch parliament. In the 2010 elections she won no seat.
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|citaat=ignored (help)[dead link]
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|Party political offices|
Proud of the Netherlands
Proud of the Netherlands
|Minister for Integration and Immigration
Gerd Leers (as Minister for Immigration, Integration and Asylum Affairs)
Piet Hein Donner
|Minister of Justice
Ernst Hirsch Ballin